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Saturday, March 6, 2021

Spot someone smoking in a Qatar mall? Call this new hotline

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For illustrative purposes only
Photo for illustrative purposes only

Addressing complaints about the illegal but frequent practice of people smoking inside Qatar’s shopping malls, authorities have launched a new tobacco hotline for the public to report offenders.

Starting today, a squad of inspectors will also patrol the most popular malls and fine people on-the-spot for the offense.

The hotline was set up by the Ministry of Public Health (MOPH), it announced in Arabic yesterday.

Beginning today, residents can call the number 5030 2001 to lodge complaints that include smoking in public places or observing stores selling tobacco to children.

These reports will then be investigated, MOPH said.

A team of eight inspectors are working on two shifts between 10am and 10pm and will target the malls where indoor smoking is most prevalent, namely Landmark, City Center, Villaggio and Ezdan malls, a representative at the hotline told Doha News.

Offenders caught by the inspectors will be given a QR500 fine on the spot.

Long-standing issue

Smoking appears to be increasingly popular here. A 2014 government report found that 12 percent of adults (aged 15 plus) smoke, compared to around 10 percent in a separate study a year earlier.”

However, smoking in public places such as shopping malls, shops, restaurants, transport and government buildings is illegal under Law no. 20 of 2002 on the Control of Tobacco and its Derivatives.

In 2010, the then-Supreme Council of Health started spot-checks and issued fines to offenders, but in recent years enforcement has been patchy and the practice still continues.

For illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Last summer, Dr. Ahmed Mohamed al-Mulla, director of Hamad Medical Corp.’s anti-smoking clinic, called for authorities to take a tougher stance.

Previously, employees of cafes said they were intimidated to reproach offenders, and they are often ignored when they do try to point out the law.

For years, the government has been considering introducing stricter anti-smoking measures such as increasing the fines for shops found selling cigarettes to children, or closing down stores which repeatedly break the law. But these have yet to be enacted.

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